Prince sues internet sites for breaching his copyright

He gave away his last album free with a newspaper, but Prince has now taken a stance to defend the rights of the artist by launching a legal action against internet sites that he claims have infringed his copyright.

The singer has announced he is taking the action to protect copyright "not just for himself, but for all artists in the digital age". He wants, he says, to "reclaim his art on the internet".

In the first phase of his legal action, the musician will target a number of commercial and pirate internet sites including YouTube, eBay and PirateBay.

It is alleged that these sites have infringed Prince's copyright by failing to filter out unauthorised content.

Prince has recently played to rave reviews at The O2 arena in London. Although fans were banned from taking photographs or video footage on their mobile phones, many have still posted clips on sites such as YouTube. The artist is also targeting eBay and other sites for selling unauthorised merchandise.

A spokesperson for Prince said: "These are steps that... Prince is taking to reclaim his art on the internet. Prince believes strongly that as an artist the music rights must remain with the artist and thus copyrights should be protected across the board. Very few artists have ever taken this kind of action over their rights. Yet, Prince has showed time and time again he is ready to challenge the system in new ways to put artists and music first."

The spokesman added that although YouTube is able to filter out pornographic content, it had not taken similar measures to ban unauthorised film and music material from its site.

Prince has instructed Web Sheriff, a company which specialises in tackling internet piracy and copyright infringement, on his behalf. John Giacobbi, managing director of Web Sheriff, said: "Prince feels very strongly about how his art is perceived and he doesn't want it remembered as grainy mobile phone footage from the back of the stadium. Prince's actions are a brave and pioneering step to challenge the status quo and hand control over internet rights back to the artists."

Over the past few days, Web Sheriff has succeeded in removing more than 2,000 unauthorised Prince clips from YouTube, but Mr Giacobbi said: "As soon as they are taken down, more spring up the next day. The onus is on the artists as opposed to YouTube itself."

The company has also recently closed down around 300 eBay auctions.

It is not the first time that Prince has fought for his rights as an artist. In the mid-1990s, he famously changed his name to a squiggle – becoming "the artist formerly known as Prince" – and wrote the word "slave" on his cheek when he fell out with his then record label Warner Bros over his contract.

In July, Prince gave away his latest album, Planet Earth, free with The Mail on Sunday, boosting the newspaper's circulation by 600,000 copies. The move provoked an outcry in the record industry, although HMV agreed to sell the newspaper so that its customers could obtain a copy of the album.

The internet has had a massive impact on the music industry in general, with illegal downloads eating into record industry profits.

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